Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue proposed in February 2017 an immigration bill which would introduce a system to prioritize green cards on the basis of merit. The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act would according to the sponsors “lower overall immigration to 637,960 in its first year and to 539,958 by its tenth year-a 50 percent reduction from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015.” A summary of the bill is here.
The bill includes a points system for merit-based green cards. Britain, Canada and Australia have point systems. In 2008, the Labor government introduced Britain‘s first points-based immigration system heralded by ministers as being based on the Australian system. It replaced a labyrinthine scheme which saw 80 different types of visa granted.
The Australian Labor government elected in 1972 decided migrants would be granted a visa based on their personal attributes and ability to contribute to Australian society – most obviously, through their occupational status. The points system – formalised in 1989 – has gone through several versions, and was most recently updated in July 2011. Canada was the first country to introduce a points-based system, in 1967.
The RAISE Act point system, in Section 5, would keep economic based visas at the current level of 140,000 and require an applicant to reach 30 points to be eligible for a green card. For example, a high school degree (foreign or U.S.) is 1 point, a U.S. professional degree is 13 points, and a foreign PhD in STEM is 10 points. Age 26 – 30 is 10 points, but age 41 – 45 is 4 points. English proficiency provides 6 to 12 points based on proficiency. If you have $1.35 million or more, you get from 6 up to 12 points. A high wage job offer provides 13 points. There is little or no room in this system for artists, authors, farm workers, and most health workers.